Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Miele Scout RX1 robotic vacuum cleaner
Keep your house clean with this automatic vacuum cleaner
- Simple to maintain
- Effective for lightweight cleaning jobs
- Can't replace a regular vacuum for comprehensive cleaning
- Heavy collisions in dimly lit environments
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
The answer to all your floor-cleaning chores is not Miele’s Scout RX1 robot vacuum cleaner, but it can certainly help to keep a lid on the accumulation of dust when used in the proper manner. It’s a typical-looking ‘Roomba-style’ vacuum with plenty of smarts, and it can be controlled via timer, or at will through its supplied remote control.
An undercarriage that consists of deep-grooved wheels allows the Scout RX1 to easily navigate not only a flat, hard floor, but also to climb up onto carpets and rugs, and to cross into rooms that vary in floor style.
It has plenty of power for moving and grooving around a floor, and its internal, removable battery can last up to two hours, which is beneficial for larger floor areas. The motor is noticeably loud, meaning you can’t just sit down and watch TV or relax with a good book if the vacuum is doing its thing in the same room as you; it’s best to leave the robot to its work while you occupy another part of the house, or while you’re out.
Navigation is aided by an up-facing camera, as well as sensors at the front and on the bottom of the unit that can detect upcoming collisions and roll-over incidents. There are two rotating brushes to help scoop in dirt so that it can be sucked up and into the Scout’s 600ml stomach, and the whole unit is easy to maintain.
The 600ml tank can be removed by manipulating the release and pulling it out towards the rear, and then removing the cover to dispose of the accumulated dirt. Its filter can also be cleaned easily, and Miele recommends that it be changed every three months -- one extra is supplied in the box. The main dirt-lifting brush can also be removed with minimal effort in order to be cleaned of any stuck dust.
A supplemental vacuum cleaner
A vacuum like this will never replace a conventional barrel-based, manual vacuum cleaner for effective floor cleaning, and you quickly realise this if you let the Scout RX1 loose on a floor coated with plentiful dust. The 600ml tank can fill up very quickly, which means that its ability to suck it in will be impaired, and it will start kicking dust around and shifting it from one spot to another.
Ideally, the Scout RX1 should be used in a way that helps prevent the build-up of dust, especially in homes where the accumulation of dust can be rapid, such as homes that are near a main road.
After a main clean of your floors using a regular vacuum (and a mop for a hard floor), you can put the Scout RX1 on a timer to then give your floors a once-over every day in a bid to prevent excessive dust and lint build-up. You have to remember, though, to empty its tank on a daily basis, and you should also keep a brush handy to remove any fluff or dust from its wheels.
We used the Scout RX1 primarily on a wooden floor, on which its little side brushes could be used effectively to drag bits of dirt into the vacuum’s path. A rug with a height of about 1cm was an obstacle in our environment, but the robot climbed up and down its edges without any issues, and its brushes didn’t have an adverse effect on the cleaning job as far as we could tell.
One thing to note is that if the robot has been dragging any dust or lint on its wheels or main brush, then it will tend to leave this all behind when it climbs up onto a carpet. In particular, you might notice this dirt on the edge of the carpet and will have to clean it up manually.
Prior to using the Scout RX1, you have to let it charge its battery in the supplied base station. You should place the base station in an area where you want to keep the vacuum on a permanent basis, ensuring it’s out of your way. Once the vacuum’s green indicator stops blinking and stays solid green, the robot is ready to roll.
You can use either the touch panel on the vacuum to start a cleaning session, or you can command it from the supplied remote control. Our preferred method for controlling the Scout was through its remote control, mainly because we found the touch panel on the vacuum to be unintuitive, with no clear icon labels or tactile buttons. Plus, this is the type of ‘lazy’ product we feel benefits from the user being able to control it by exerting as little effort as possible -- that is, being able to start the cleaning process without even getting up.
Foiled by an iPad charging cable
The other thing of importance that must be noted is that a robot vacuum cleaner of this nature will work best when there are few obstructions. You must ensure that there no cables lying susceptible on your floor, and that the robot has plenty of room to move without constantly hitting chairs and other furniture.
All of the time, the robot limboed its way under furniture that was only just high enough off the floor for it to fit. This meant that things such as extension cables snaking along a wall behind furniture were not completely safe from the wrath of the robot. But the thicker the cables were, the better; the robot just went over these without getting in a tangle.
Despite our best efforts at ensuring no other cables would get in the way of the Scout, there was an inevitable incident: we somehow missed an iPad charging cable that was dangling half off the bottom shelf of a coffee table. As the robot went about its business, it bumped into the cable, causing it to fall further off the table. It then became entangled in the main brush, about three rotations worth. This had the effect of stopping the vacuum in its tracks, causing it to give an error (F E). We had to switch it off and on again.
Of course, we were out of the room at the time this incident occurred and came in wondering where the vacuum had gone, looking around a bit until we saw it stuck under the coffee table, caught by the cowboy charging cable. It took a fair bit of effort to pull the cable out of the vacuum, not realising just how many times it had gone around the brush. In hindsight, we should have removed the brush first.
Navigating a dirt field
The way the Scout RX1 tackles the cleaning of a floor can vary, but we always used the ‘auto’ setting, which saw the robot make its way across the floor in a straight line-turn left-straight line pattern that was only modified when it hit furniture. At such a point, the Scout hugged its way around the obstacle, examining the shape and course, before turning around and heading back from where it came.
All told, it covered every part of our floor, including corners and the areas around obstacles. Parts that were missed on its outbound journey, which left us frustrated because it only just missed them, were then covered on its inbound journey, and then gone over again on the machine’s second run.
Spot cleaning of an area about 2m from a starting point is possible, and a ‘corner’ cleaning setting can be used to give even more attention to the edges and corners of a floor.
Manual navigation is possible using the arrow keys on the remote control, and this can come in handy when you only want to clean a specific area (such as our example spills of rice and flour below -- note that you shouldn’t pick up flour with this vacuum as it will cause a bigger mess around the wheels and main brush that you will have to clean).
A fail in the darkness
Just because the robot features sensors to guide it along its merry way, it doesn’t mean that it won’t crash into things. Sometimes it hit furniture that was in its blind spot, such as thin lamp or table legs. In a sign of utter disrespect, it even crashed into its own home base after running over the charging contacts a few times. On objects that were not all that heavy, the vacuum rammed into them and moved them off their spot significantly. There was a reason for this, as we'll now explain.
It seemed to us that on its first run it was more careful about bumping into things, but on its second run it let all inhibition go out the window as it rammed into things at will and at full speed. Soon enough we learned that this more aggressive behaviour was due to a lack of light. Our cleaning sessions were often undertaken after coming home from work, with the cleaning runs starting in the presence of daylight, but finishing in the dark. It’s important to keep this in mind, especially if putting the vacuum on a timer. You’ll want to leave the lights on if undertaking a clean after the sun has gone down.
After cleaning sessions that lasted about 90min, the Scout RX1 initiated ‘base’ mode in order to head back home and charge its battery. It reached the vicinity of the base, and like a plane on finals for the runway, it shuffled a little to line up the connectors on the base, making slight adjustments to the course along the way, before coming in to gently settle upon the contacts that would refuel its battery (it takes about two hours to fully charge). Of course, it was a more comical approach when undertaken at night with the room lights off.
What's the verdict?
A few runs were needed to make the Scout RX1 proficient in our home’s environment (and for us to remove wayward cables and other obstacles to make it easier for the robot), but once it found its groove, it was a lovely piece of technology to observe in action.
The cleaning aspects of the product, which are fundamental to its function, were performed adequately in our opinion, though we did give it some fairly tough ground to clean. As mentioned, it’s the type of vacuum that you can use for ongoing ‘maintenance’ or ‘incremental’ style cleaning on a timer, rather than for main cleaning jobs. Big cleaning jobs still need the power and capacity of a regular vacuum.
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